JAKARTA – Most of the main mosques in Srinagar City, Kashmir, India were closed by the Indian government two years ago. However, this has nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of the main mosques in Srinagar, Kashmir’s largest city, have been closed amid a bitter dispute between Indian authorities and Kashmiri Muslims.
Quoted by Liputan6.com, which launched the VOA Indonesia site on Tuesday, December 28th, 2021, the hundreds of years old Jamia Mosque in the surrounding residential area in Srinagar stands out with its magnificent main gate and large towers.
The brick and wood construction is one of the oldest mosques in the 1.2 million city, 96 percent of which are Muslim.
The Jamia Mosque, which stands in Nowhatta in the middle of the old town of Srinagar, was built by Sultan Sikandar in 1394 AD and completed in 1402 AD by order of Mir Mohammad Hamadani, the son of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani.
With 378 wooden pillars, this mosque offers space for 33 thousand worshipers. Over the years hundreds of thousands of Muslims have also filled the surrounding alleys and streets on special occasions to attend the mosque’s prayers.
However, the Indian authorities see the mosque as a hotbed of unrest – a center of protests and clashes against India’s sovereignty over the disputed Kashmir region.
A Muslim prays in the Jamia Mosque in Srinagar during the holy month of Ramadan (April 20, 2021). (afp / tauseef mustafa / liputan6.com)
For Kashmiri Muslims, the mosque is not only a sacred place where they perform Friday prayers, but also a place where they can express their political rights.
Amid these tensions, the mosque has been largely closed for the past two years.
The grand imam of the mosque was detained at his home almost continuously during this period. The main gate of the mosque is padlocked and covered with corrugated zinc sheets.
The closure of the mosque has fueled the anger of Kashmiri Muslims. Bashir Ahmed, 65, a retired official who prayed in the mosque for more than five decades, said, “I feel uncomfortable. Something is missing deep in my heart. “
Indian authorities declined to comment on the mosque’s restrictions despite repeated requests from the Associated Press.
In the past, officials said the government was forced to close the Jamia Mosque because its government committee failed to stop the anti-India protests in the neighborhood.
The closure of the 600-year-old mosque comes as part of a raid that began in 2019 after the Kashmiri government revoked Kashmir’s longstanding semi-autonomous status.
Closed every Friday
Recently, some mosques and other places of worship in the region – which were also closed due to security measures and the subsequent pandemic – were allowed to offer services. However, the Jamia Mosque is still closed to devotees who wish to pray on Friday.
Authorities left the mosque open for six days, but only a few hundred believers gathered there at that time, compared with the tens of thousands who regularly attend Friday prayers.
Religious freedom is enshrined in the Indian Constitution and enables citizens to adhere to the teachings of their religion and practice them freely.
The constitution also states that the state “will not discriminate, patronize or interfere with any religion”.
For Muslims in Kashmir, the closure of the mosque brings back painful memories of the past.
In 1819 the Sikh rulers closed it for 21 years. Over the past 15 years, the mosque has been regularly banned and closed by subsequent Indian governments.
However, the current restrictions are the most severe since the territory was split between India and Pakistan after the two countries gained independence from Great Britain in 1947. Both countries claim the entire territory. ***
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